John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Explore nuclear and wind facilities, the movement of petroleum, and steamy geothermal fields in this mapping tool.
Where does your energy come from?
For an answer, some folks might be satisfied with pointing to a wall socket and saying, “There.” For others who want to dig deeper, check out this fantastic map from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing just about everything you want to know about our energy infrastructure.
Do you live near an oil or gas well? Well, here they are, with oil in brown and gas in blue (the horde of dots off the Gulf Coast are platforms in federal waters):
These are surface and underground coal mines—some are sprinkled in the Western half of the country, but the majority are to be found in Appalachia:
Nuclear sites reveal a similar dichotomy. The lonesome three operating in the West are the Columbia Generating Station, which provides Washington with about 10 percent of its energy, the Diablo Canyon facility in San Luis Obispo County, California, and the Palo Verde plant in Western Arizona. The latter, the largest nuclear facility in the nation, is in the middle of the desert, so it has to evaporate the surrounding cities’ wastewater to achieve cooling.
Aside from Texas and a single station in Tennessee, the South isn’t welcoming toward wind-power plants:
That’s likely because the region isn’t gusty. The average wind speed there is 4 to 5 meters per second, reports Renewable Energy World, compared to 7.5 to 9 in the Plains. You can see why it’s smart to lard the country’s midsection with wind sites in this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (speeds are measured at 262 feet high):
Geothermal plants cluster in the West, notably in Nevada, SoCal, and above steam-field reservoirs in the mountains north of San Francisco. The latter hold the Geysers complex, site of the first geothermal plant in the U.S. (opened in 1960) and now the biggest geothermal installation on the planet:
Crude-oil and petroleum-product pipelines connect with ports and refineries, such as those along the Gulf of Mexico, New Jersey, the Great Lakes, and near Seattle. Way up north is the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, running from Prudhoe Bay down to still-oil-soaked Valdez, said to be the most northern ice-free point in the U.S. Note there are many lines in Canada not shown here:
And if you’re the type that likes to stare at large ships, these are the inland waterways that move 750 or more short tons of petroleum a year. Go Mississippi!